Maximize Destination Tourism Marketing by Using Seasonality
by Pam Parker
In early April, more than two-thirds of Americans said they were ready to travel, according to a weekly Destination Analysis survey.
Combined with the scheduled reopening of museums, venues and state parks, it’s time to maximize opportunities to invite guests to enjoy the education and experience of heritage tourism sites, no matter what the weather holds. Here’s how to implement a plan that encourages patrons to visit using seasonality to your advantage:
- Start small with a quarterly plan for your destination marketing organization that kicks off all your best seasonal opportunities, but have a secondary goal of promoting your site as an all-season destination.
- Compose an annual plan. If you know what draws tourists in every season, you can start marketing each activity and seasonal attraction well in advance.
- As a destination marketing organization, share your site as an all-season venue with plenty of options for well-attended outdoor attractions and indoor experiences. It’s important to coordinate among stakeholders to cross-promote seasonal opposites.
Heritage tourism marketers need to know how to make sure their communities and regions ready for vacationers in any season.
Think About the Seasons
So where should you start? Easy. Break up the annual season into quarters.
For example, right now, you want to focus on what your destination offers in the summer and/or the fall. According to a Forbes article, a Tripadvisor survey said that half of U.S. respondents would take a trip by May 31. It pointed out that 29 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine with people expressing a comfort level to spend “a day or two 100 miles away from home,” according to Allianz Partners, a travel insurance company quoted within the Forbes article.
That’s good news for heritage tourism marketers because day trips and weekends give visitors a chance to get out and enjoy nature as more venues open. Outdoor enthusiasts and recreation lovers are ready to seek campsites, beaches, fishing, boating, amusement parks, hunting, lakes, and nature while the weather is nice.
While everyone markets outdoor sites during summer and fall, they should be paired with great indoor venues that provide tourists something to experience when they can’t enjoy the weather. Rainstorms, oppressive heat, snowstorms and Mother Nature’s surprises can’t sabotage a great vacation if you offer alternatives.
Keep in mind that unique experiences are what tourists want to schedule. Western Pennsylvanians have proven their affinity for unique designations that might include Titusville, named “Tree City, USA,” by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Heritage tourism experiences will also draw visitors to other unique spots that include the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad, Keystone Ordnance, Pithole, Drake Well Museum, and other spots throughout the year.
Leverage Your Heritage
Oil Region Alliance Communications and Tourism Manager Emily Altomare said that during COVID-19’s closures, tourists couldn’t go inside museums, but they still showed interest in historic preservation and architecture of houses and buildings and what took place in them in Franklin, Titusville, and Oil City. Patrons couldn’t tour the interiors, but they could enjoy walking tours, and they did.
You could pair a heritage home tour or indoor museum visit with outdoor venues to offer your tourists the unique experiences they crave. Examples of a few regional assets are the Ida Tarbell House in Titusville, the Baldwin-Reynolds House in Meadville, the Debence Antique Music Museum in Franklin, and Buhl Mark Mansion in Sharon. All are located within miles of outdoor fun.
Refresh Your Annual Plan
While you’re finishing your quarterly marketing plans, look ahead a year and even more. At Bull Moose Marketing, we remind clients that the annual plan has to be in place in order to capitalize on festivals, one-time anniversaries, events and celebrations. It’s important to look ahead so you know what grant opportunities might be available.
Heritage and cultural tourism marketing isn’t just about bringing tourists into the region to enjoy the offerings. It’s about collaborating with like-minded businesses and nonprofits, who might have future events in planning stages.
When something like a 50th anniversary comes up, you want to be involved and supportive as a destination marketing organization. An annual plan that promotes all your seasonal assets and includes “what ifs” can ensure that your quarterly and yearly goals work in tandem.
Keep In Mind New Audiences
Similarly, it’s smart marketing to connect with regional heritage marketing stakeholders to cross-promote assets and appeal to a broader audience. Remember, every year, your destination marketing organization has a new audience.
On a national level, tourists have discovered rural areas as a new place to live. Many have moved from larger cities to smaller towns because they had the ability to work-from-home, and home can now be anywhere.
A 2020 Pew Research Center survey noted that about 22% of adults either “changed their residence due to the pandemic or know someone who did.”
Know Your Assets For Your Heritage Marketing
Make the most of your seasonal assets. Communicate with potential vacationers that you are open and have plenty to offer regardless of the season.
For example, when tourists admire the outdoor beauty of summer and fall, remind them of what’s available in the winter. Make it a Hallmark moment and paint a picture of your community’s small-town charm where winter can include skiing, skating, ice festivals, ice fishing, and shopping in mom-and-pop boutiques that are unique to your destination.
Know your audiences and cater to them. While families do a lot of vacationing, changing demographics are important because “58% of millennials are planning a trip this spring compared to 50% of all age groups,” according to a Forbes article that cites a Tripadvisor survey.
Staying in touch with like-minded stakeholders who have a pulse on demographic and population trends is all the more important as destination marketing organizations face post-COVID-19 heritage tourism opportunities.
Every season offers unique opportunities to appeal to tourists. Use a combination to maximize your heritage tourism marketing dollars today.
Pam Parker is an award-winning reporter and editor from Gannett's Erie Times-News who recently retired and is now a project manager at the Erie County Historical Society - Hagen History Center in Erie. She has worked in marketing and publishing most of her life and had careers as an account executive and media director for multiple ad agencies. She has also been a freelance writer who has written about homes, women’s issues, hard news and in-depth features. She is a proud wife, mom/stepmom of six, GramPam to seven and a wicked-good tennis player.
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